In association with hhdlstudycirclemontreal.org

Sweeping My Heart

Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.
InnerNet Weekly: Inspirations from ServiceSpace.org
Sweeping My Heart
by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

[Listen to Audio!]

2509.jpgFor me, a dark-skinned person of African descent, cleaning the temple as Zen practice felt inappropriate and uncomfortable when I was at the beginning of my training. When you are an older black woman and a young white man tells you how to mop the floor during work period, the experience is akin to being a maid or a reminder of slavery. Ordinary temple work is the kind of labor often relegated in this country to folks of color and poor people. It is work that can ensure a lower rank in society. […]

For those who suffer from internalized “isms” like racism and sexism, to be humbled by spiritual practice is counter to their task of wellness and healing from dehumanization. If anything, they are looking to emerge from the place of submission. They are looking for a place to speak rather than be silent, to communicate the suffering of all “isms” being played out while sweeping the temple’s floor.

Yet, I stayed with Zen practice, doing the mundane, and years later I scrubbed the toilets when I was head student, in order, they say, to remain humble. The more I bowed, the more I scrubbed. Eventually, I felt my ancestors moving my body, back and forth. They told me this work was good. I was skeptical.

Me: “Really? I don’t need this.”

Ancestors: “Exactly. You feel you have become better than us.”

Me: “I went to school because you said education was the best thing for black people. I got a Ph.D. so I don’t need to do what black folks have always done.”

Ancestors: “Your pride is no good to us. Your degree is no good to us. We need your heart to be healed. Don’t let intellect take the place of love. You must love more.”

I swept longer, breathing, listening, crying. This is true, I say to myself.

Me: “But I worked so hard not to be oppressed as you were. I worked for justice. I prayed. I ate well. I did good deeds most of my life.”

Ancestors: “We need more than that from you. We don’t need you to be a good Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, follower of African Orishas, or whatever. We need you to remember the dust from which you came. We need you to remember a time before things went crazy, when they sold Africans like us. There was something before. It is still hidden from you. Find it. Keep sweeping—not to clean but to see and hear where your heart is blocked from what we see for you. We put you in a place where you would be bothered enough to change.”

Today when I clean the temple, I know it is my ancestors calling. I know that the memory within me of their existence as slaves is being understood and transformed. I know that temple cleaning is the motion arising from sitting meditation, not history repeating itself.

If I am fortunate enough to be offered a chance to sweep, it is a profound time with my own heart—to use the broom as a ritual connecting this life and the lives of those in my past. I am not replicating what my ancestors did as slaves. On the contrary, they have brought me to this moment.

About the Author: Zenju Earthlyn Manuel is an author, visual artist, drummer, and Zen Buddhist priest. Excerpt above from this essay.

Share the Wisdom:
Email Twitter FaceBook
Latest Community Insights New!
Sweeping My Heart
How do you relate to the notion of the sweeping practice being really about finding where the heart is blocked? Can you share a personal story of a time you went beyond your accomplishments and remembered the dust from which you came? What helps you be profoundly with your heart?
+Jagdish+P+Dave wrote: How do I see the realty, the truth, depends on the quality of my lenses. Seeeing the reality blurred by the dust of isms like racism , sexism, classism and religionism causes and sustains our blindnes…
Share/Read Your Reflections
Awakin Circles:
Many years ago, a couple friends got together to sit in silence for an hour, and share personal aha-moments. That birthed this newsletter, and rippled out as Awakin Circles in 80+ living rooms around the globe. To join in Santa Clara this week, RSVP online.

RSVP For Wednesday

Some Good News

• The Divided Brain
• Returning to the Art of the Unknowable
• Letters from Two Gardens

Video of the Week

• The Divided Brain

Kindness Stories

Global call with Lissa Rankin!
621.jpgJoin us for a conference call this Saturday, with a global group of ServiceSpace friends and our insightful guest speaker. Join the Forest Call >>

About
Back in 1997, one person started sending this simple “meditation reminder” to a few friends. Soon after, “Wednesdays” started, ServiceSpace blossomed, and the humble experiments of service took a life of its own. If you’d like to start an Awakin gathering in your area, we’d be happy to help you get started.

Forward to a Friend

Awakin Weekly delivers weekly inspiration to its 62,208 subscribers. We never spam or host any advertising. And you can unsubscribe anytime, within seconds.

On our website, you can view 17+ year archive of these readings. For broader context, visit our umbrella organization: ServiceSpace.org.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: